Blog Archives

DIY – Word Blocks

A little while back I came across the idea of using megablocks to help with phonics skills and fluency.  I thought it was a great idea.  I’ll try to find the website where I first saw it, and will share it when I do.  For now though, here’s our take on it:

Seeing how the girl has outgrown her megablocks and generally is using lego for building, I loved the idea of repurposing her old blocks.  So today I pulled out my label maker and her box of blocks and set to work.  This should give new life to all her old sets, that haven’t seen the light in several months.

I decided to put both a capitalized and lowercase version of the same word on each block.  This way, when we start worrying more about proper capitalization her blocks will still be useful for her.  Eventually I’ll be adding a whole lot more words – including many she has requested herself – as well as doubling up some blocks with words like is, was, it, and…  as many of them can be used twice in the same super silly, extra long, sentence.

We also decided to use many of her blocks with stickers on them.  You know how some sets (like Kai Lan and Diego) have themed stickers that get applied to some blocks?  Well, we’ve labeled those too – with Kid kid’s choice of words.  It can be nice for early readers to have visual hints when still working towards reading fluency.

So, here are our blocks.  I ran out of tape in my label maker, so had to stop a little earlier than I’d have liked.  But we still had enough finished to have a bit of fun.  Lily-Ann loved my “Dad was stinky” sentence, and I loved that her very first one was “Lily-Ann is cute”.  😉

 

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TJ Bown, Summerset Abbey, and Water.

In the brief teaser I tacked onto yesterdays blog post I let you know there would be a special interview today, and I’m not going to disappoint!  I had the chance to ask author TJ Brown a few questions in regards to her new release Summerset Abbey and the series it kicks off.  So, let’s jump right in!

TD:  Was there a certain event or idea that inspired the book?

TJ:  I have always loved the Edwardian period, but after Downton Abbey aired, I really wanted to write something in that period. I told my agent, we should pitch an Edwardian and she asked me what I had in mind. 5 weeks later I had a contract for a three book Edwardian series!

TD:  I know this is your first foray into historical fiction, did this pose any particular challenges or did you find it was a natural fit for you?

TJ:  It actually isn’t my first foray into historical fiction. Six months prior to getting the Summerset Abbey contract, I got a contract for a young adult series set in the 1920’s. So even though it won’t be out until June (Born of Illusion, June 15th!), I wrote it before the Summerset Series.

I honestly never thought I would be a historical writer, even though I love history and reading historicals. I just thought I had a more modern voice and the research intimidated me. But I had this idea that wouldn’t go away and once I wrote Born of Illusion I was hooked. Of course, Summerset is in a different time period, but before I started writing it, I figured that I had done so much research for the twenties, surely ten years prior couldn’t be that big of a difference could it? Was I ever wrong. 1914 England was a whole different world than 1924 New York. I had to start the research all over again! And I love it!

TD:  Can you tell me a little about your process?

TJ:  Usually, I start with a concept for a plot. Just a sketchy idea. Then the characters’ come. It’s rather like putting together a puzzle. And then my plot constantly changes and develops as I write. I’m not quite a seat of my pants writer, but the Summerset books have been unusually organic for me.

TD:  How many books do you foresee in this series?

TJ:  I am contracted for three but I have an idea for a fourth that my editor likes. Nothing is set in stone yet, and it may not happen, but I do have a fourth Summerset book in mind. We’ll see! But four for sure.

TD:  Do you have a favourite character or is there one who resonates more with you than the others?

TJ:  Victoria. In all of my books I have at least one over the top character and in Summerset Abbey, Victoria is the one. She is smart and imaginative and she says almost everything that comes into her mind. I adore her. Even though all girls are featured, Bloom in Winter is her book, and I had such an awesome time working on it!

So there you have it folks!  TJ Brown on her new book, Summerset Abbey, her process, and on writing historical fiction.  Now all that’s left is to drop a few details.  😉

Summerset Abbey is available at:

Book Blurb:

  • Summerset Abbey
    1913: In a sprawling manor on the outskirts of London, three young women
    seek to fulfill their destinies and desires amidst the unspoken rules of
    society and the distant rumblings of war. . . .
    Rowena Buxton
    Sir Philip Buxton raised three girls into beautiful and capable young women
    in a bohemian household that defied Edwardian tradition. Eldest sister
    Rowena was taught to value people, not wealth or status. But everything she
    believes will be tested when Sir Philip dies, and the girls must live under
    their uncle's guardianship at the vast family estate, Summerset Abbey.
    Standing up for a beloved family member sequestered to the "under class" in
    this privileged new world, and drawn into the Cunning Coterie, an exclusive
    social circle of aristocratic "rebels," Rowena must decide where her true
    passions-and loyalties-lie.
    Victoria Buxton
    Frail in body but filled with an audacious spirit, Victoria secretly dreams
    of attending university to become a botanist like her father. But this most
    unladylike wish is not her only secret. Now, Victoria has stumbled upon a
    family scandal that, if revealed, has the potential to change lives forever.
    Prudence Tate
    Prudence was lovingly brought up alongside Victoria and Rowena, and their
    bond is as strong as blood. But by birth she is a governess's daughter, and
    to the lord of Summerset Abbey, that makes her a commoner who must take her
    true place in society-as ladies maid to her beloved "sisters." But Pru
    doesn't belong in the downstairs world of the household staff any more than
    she belongs upstairs with the Buxton girls.  And when a young lord catches
    her eye, she begins to wonder if she'll ever truly carve out a place for
    herself at Summerset Abbey.

For more check out TJ at http://tjbrownbooks.com/

TJ Brown, author headshot

Author TJ Brown – Hooray for MomWriters!


Now, as if that alone doesn’t make one heck of a blog post, I still have more for you!  That’s right… we’re still in the middle of the January Photo Challenge – and I’m not one to give up on a challenge.  So here we are.  😉

The challenge today was to photograph water.  Easy peasy, right?  Yep.  Here’s the girl, immersed in the stuff:

kid in the bathtub

My little bathing beauty.

Let’s hope tomorrow is a LITTLE more of an actual challenge…

photo a day challenge for january

Something I’ve bought?  Well…  I guess there’s at least a little bit of thought to go into that one.  😉

 

Pandora strikes Lily-Ann mute!

Okay, so y’all are probably getting sick of me mentioning the Goddess Girls series…  well…  too bad!  LOL  Today the challenge was to photograph something that I’m reading, and that’s what I’m reading.  Book nine:  Pandora the Curious.

Our copy of Pandora the Curious by Suzanne Williams and Joan Holub.

Our copy of Pandora the Curious by Suzanne Williams and Joan Holub.

Usually we’ve been inside the heads of the popular girls, but the last couple of books have taken us inside a couple of secondary characters (the girl and I ADORED Medusa the Mean).  Pandora, along with Medusa and Pheme are the anti-heroines to the cool clique of Artemis, Athena, Aphrodite and Persephone.  So it’s kinda fun to get to see inside their lives.

This book, in particular, is awfully special to Lily-Ann.  The first time she saw it she was actually rendered speechless for the first time in her five and a half years…  well…  since she uttered her first word (which happened to be “woof”) at three months of age anyway.  😉  What exactly caused her awestruck silence?  Take a peek:

There she is, the first name on the third line...  Lily-Ann S.

There she is, the first name on the third line… Lily-Ann S.

Kid kid managed to keep her wits about her when she saw that it was an autographed copy (she has a couple other autographed books too)…  but seeing her name actually inside the book?  Her jaw dropped and her eyes nearly bugged out of her head.  She just stood there and stared at it for several seconds, completely mute.  It was pretty amazing.

Lily-Ann LOVED the little heart.  :)

Lily-Ann LOVED the little heart. 🙂

So, that’s what we’re reading right now.  And I imagine we’ll keep on reading the Goddess Girls books for as long as Joan and Suzanne keep writing them.  I do have to admit…  I really look forward to the day that kid kid goes back on her own to read #1 all by herself.

You can keep up with Joan and Suzanne at the following addresses:  www.joanholub.com   www.suzannewilliams.com

Lily-Ann (hat hair and all) proudly showing off her Goddess Girls books.

Lily-Ann (hat hair and all) proudly showing off her Goddess Girls books.

 

Suzanne and Joan thank you so much!  You’ve given the girl and I many wonderful memories and are helping to build a love of books in a new generation – and that is something that deserves much appreciation.

Join me tomorrow as I share a little “happiness”:

photo a day challenge for january

Literacy and Childhood

Childhood is about learning who you are and how you fit into the world.  It’s about trying on as many different hats as possible, and seeing how well you wear each.  It’s about learning through play.

Lily-Ann, building together with some of her school friends.

Lily-Ann, building together with some of her school friends.

 

I really though I’d have a lot to say today… but in all honesty?  I’m tired out after a day of play.  I love spending Thursdays in school with kid kid, but it does wear me out.  Some very positive news came out of today though!

A literacy expert sat in on the girl’s kindergarten class for about an hour this afternoon – and she was excited by the girl.  She’s promised that they will come up with a program that challenges Lily-Ann, one that helps encourage her already present enthusiasm for reading and creative play.  I am feeling so much better knowing that the girl is going to have someone (other than me) pulling for her at school.  Someone who gets just how important it is to not only focus on those who are behind, but those who have the potential to really excel.  So YAY!  🙂

photo a day challenge for january

A hat and scarf kinda day.

I’m exhausted.  My sister in law, Tabatha, and my niece Eliana and nephew Leandro just left.  I got the girl ready for bed, and Damon is in there reading to her.  Normally I’m in there too, but this is a book he picked out and is reading to her – and I don’t want to interfere.  While it’s not the first time he’s read to her (he had to take over when my TMJ got so bad that it forced me to stop reading out loud) but this is the first book he picked out and bought for her, so it’s kinda special.  🙂

Yesterday’s challenge photo was “letterbox”, which I’m assuming is the same as a “mailbox”.  😉  So here’s ours.  It’s dirty, dusty, and dinged up…  but it’s cute and charming just like the rest of our new house.  And hey!  It even had some mail in it when I snapped this picture:

our little blue mailbox, hanging on the side of our blue and white house

Today’s challenge was to photograph something I wore.  Well…  I didn’t have to give this one much thought.  With my hair badly needing to be washed (it’s super flat and greasy right now, just ask my SiL – whom I’m sure was amazed I’d be seen with it like this) I threw my hat on before heading outside earlier today.  I really love my hat.  And with the weather unseasonably warm for January (try -10 or -15 when it’s usually -30 or -40) I haven’t been having to wear a super heavy scarf.  So I threw on the one my sister Riki and her girlfriend Kate bought me for Christmas, it’s right up my alley and I just love it.  Here they are:

my hat and scarf, sitting on our couch

Just found your way here and have no idea why I’m sharing pictures of such unusual items?  Check out the January challenge list below:

photo a day challenge for january

So You Want to Be a Wizard

The cover of my twenty year old copy of So You Want to Be a Wizard.So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane was one of my favourite books as a kid.  I think I was about seven when I read it.  The bookmobile had just gotten a copy of it and I remember my name was the first one on the book slip – I always loved it when that happened.  I absolutely devoured it, and then couldn’t wait for the end of the week when the bookmobile would again be parked next to Dr. Seager Wheeler Park so I could tell the librarian about it – to ensure she stocked the next book when it came out.

A few years ago now, I saw an old copy (though not so old as the one I would have first read) on the “for sale” rack at our little neighbourhood library.  It was old enough that it still had the kraft paper envelope glued onto the first page – where the book slip would have slid in so perfectly.  I grabbed it pretty darn quickly, and when the girl was done checking out her books I gratefully handed over the quarter (or two, I can’t recall exactly how much it was) that the paperbacks withdrawn from the library collection sell for.  When we got home, I stashed it away on a shelf, knowing some day my girl might just love it as much as I did… and excited that it would be here waiting for her.

Inside my copy of So You Want to Be a Wizard, the withdrawn stamp and the kraft paper envelope... memories.

Tonight we started reading the brittle, crinkly pages, each one crackling and popping as they were turned.  There is just something special about older books.  Something magical in the way they sound, feel, and smell.  Even leafing through them is a journey…  and I’ll admit to a palpable tingle in the air as I listened to the pages turn taking us to the prologue and our epic adventure.

As my husband read aloud, I was taken back to the very first time I read So You Want to Be a Wizard.  And I was quickly reminded why I loved it so much, even then.  I was never one for flaky books with characters as thin as the paper their lives were printed on.  Even as a kid, I liked my words meaty, purposeful, and true.  Listening to Nita’s experience going back into the children’s section of her little library, I relived those first moments of discovery, when I knew what it was to stumble – with her – onto the amazing book and looking forward to where it would take her.  …yep, I’m going to enjoy doing this again.  😉

New House Nerves and Medusa the Mean

Okay, ya got me.  I’ve been kind of a lazy blogger lately.  My posts aren’t really sounding like me, they are short and not nearly as engaging.  Yeah.  I know.

The fact of the matter is, with everything on my brain lately, I’m just not quite myself.  I’m stressed about the house…  packing up and leaving this place behind is tough.  I’m super excited about the new place and what it will mean for our family, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this is our home.  We got engaged in the bathroom.  We first talked about having a baby sitting in this bedroom.  We’ve lived lots of places together, Damon and I, but this was the first one that was home.  Nine years here.  It’s a hard thing to walk away from, even if the place no longer meets our needs.

So yeah.  With the house on my brain, it’s hard to think of much else for long enough to blog about it.  …and I’m guessing you don’t want to hear me posting about the house every day.  😉

We take possession one month from today.  We already have so many boxes packed that it’s tough to move around in here.  We haven’t got even a small portion of the packing done yet.  There’s more than one reason we stayed here nine years (even though the intention was about three years when we bought the place).  LOL

It’s a good thing.  This is going to be such an amazing thing for us.  But that doesn’t take away from how difficult it is.

That said, here’s something cute and fun:

We’ve been reading Medusa the Mean (yep, another book in the Goddess Girls series).  Lily-Ann absolutely LOVED chapter 7, Kindergarten Buddies.  Of course, being IN kindergarten herself probably had a lot to do with it…  though it was a super adorable chapter that made her giggle and grin repeatedly (especially when she realized that there was a crush starting between Medusa and Dionysus, and then further imagined her Daddy as being like Dionysus and herself as Andromeda).  So tonight, before bedtime, she decided to draw Medusa and Dionysus – as inspired by the Goddess Girls books and the cover illustration of Medusa the Mean.  And for a five year old?  I was darn impressed.  😉

The cover art for Medusa the Mean, and the girl's interpretation of Medusa and Dionysus.

Medusa and Dionysus

From Mundane to Meaningful?

I’m having another rather pensive night, and while that can lead to rather long winding, interesting blog posts?  It’s just as likely to lead to me being unable to decide what to write about.  😉  So I figured I’d check out the new Weekly Writing Challenge here at WordPress:  from mundane to meaningful.

Hmmm…

So, what did I do today?  To be honest?  Nothing that I would consider mundane.  Sure, it was every day things like playing with kid kid, crafting, cuddling, but I don’t consider any of that mundane.  Damon came home, we had supper, watched a couple episodes of Avatar (the series about Ang) then I got ready for an evening photo shoot.  I got to work with a lovely couple who were super easy to photograph.  Then I came home and we got the girl ready for bed.  I laid next to her as she fell asleep, and now I’m blogging.  To be honest, the closest thing to mundane about my day is this, the blogging.  And even it has a huge amount of meaning for me.

My family?  My life?  The things I do?  They matter.  So it’s hard to see any of it as mundane.  And I don’t even feel particularly blessed in that regard.  I believe what we ALL do matters.  What we do, the choices we make, they impact the lives of those around us.  Who we are, the things we do?  It all matters, and THAT gives my life excitement – which is the antonym of mundane.

We’ve Begun our Search for Wondla

I had forgotten what it was like to read something so beautiful that the words alone remind you of what it is to be passionate.  How they are strung together, the choice of each so careful and deliberate that your heart soars with each syllable.  So used to the simple choices of most children’s books I had abandoned the memory of things so attentively scribed.  Tonight I thrilled in the sublime usage of words divine.

Ahhhh….

Truly.

It has been so very long since I read something where the words alone thrilled me so.  We’re only two chapters into The Search for Wondla but already my writerly self is more fulfilled and ecstatic than it’s been in a very, very, VERY long, long, long while.  LOL

I’m sure for some folk this may not make even a lick of sense, but for those of you who do get it?  I know your hearts will be leaping along with me on this little discovery.  It really is so rare these days (among literature of ANY kind) to find work that makes your heart leap.  Awesome stories?  You bet, there’s a lot of them out there.  Fabulous characters?  Even more so.  Intricate worlds?  There are still a few new places to explore.  But words worth reading just for the sake of how beautifully they are composed?  It has been decades since I read something where the words alone made my head spin with possibilities.

I’m aware that The Search for Wondla is juvenile fiction, but if you’re any kind of word-nerd, head over to wondla.com right now.  Order a paperback, hardcover edition, or even the ebook or audiobook.  Trust me.  Like I said, we’ve only begun to dive into our search for Wondla – we’re only two chapters in…  and already I know it’s going to be unforgettable!

The Search for Wondla by Tony Diterlizzi

The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi

Awake, Asleep (pictures of a girl and a chihuahua)

So, in less than a week Caesar has managed to push his way firmly into our little family.  I have a feeling he may well be staying on past his engagement with the ladies.  LOL  Of course, I can’t say for sure one way or another just yet…  but if I were to place a bet?  It would be that he may very well have found his forever home.  When kid-kid announces “I think he needs to belong to me, he just loves me TOO much”?  Well…  that says a lot.  And what says even more?  How about a quick iphone capture or two?

Awake and getting comfortable to hear a chapter from the second Harry Potter book.

Awake and getting settled in, ready to listen to a chapter or two from the second Harry Potter book.

 

Asleep shortly afterwards, time to turn out the lights.

Asleep shortly afterwards (my movement woke Caesar), time to douse the light.

 

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